The longtime Democratic congressman from the border city of Laredo, Texas – a focal point of the influx of migrants at the nation’s southern border – released photos from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility, which showed crowded and makeshift conditions as family detention centers and shelters for children quickly filled up.
“Keep in mind this is a Border Patrol facility. They’re not equipped to handle young people and families. They were set up to handle adults,” Cuellar explained Tuesday in an interview on “Fox and Friends.”
Cuellar urged that President Biden‘s “administration just has to move them faster into the Health and Human Services facilities.”
The 65-year-old congressman, a self-described “moderate-centrist” Democrat, has never been shy about breaking party ranks. Last week he chided Biden for not making a trip to the border to witness the burgeoning crisis.
“Any president should come down [and] really spend time with border communities. You know, the president sent a delegation and a bunch of folks from the White House,” the nine-term congressman said on Fox News’ “Your World.” “They didn’t talk to anybody, not even members of Congress down here.”
If Cuellar’s words sound familiar – they are.
Cuellar urged then-President Barack Obama to come to the U.S.-Mexican border in 2014, during a similar surge in migrant crossings.
At the time, he angered fellow Democrats as well as the rest of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus by teaming up with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to push a bill to speed deportation of Central American children.
Cuellar, who served 14 years in the Texas House of Representatives, supported then-Gov. George W. Bush for president in 2000. The next year, Gov. Rick Perry, Bush’s Republican successor, named Cuellar secretary of state.
Cuellar ran for Congress in 2002, losing to powerful GOP Rep. Henry Bonilla. But in 2004 he narrowly defeated Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who was chair of the Hispanic caucus. Cuellar won the general election, and two years later handily defeated Rodriguez again in the Democratic primary before winning the general election in a landslide.
After easily winning reelections from 2008 through 2018, Cuellar faced serious competition last year. The Justice Democrats, the progressive group that supported Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her successful Democratic primary upset in 2018, gave its support to Cuellar primary challenger Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration and human rights attorney. Cuellar narrowly defeated Cisneros before winning reelection in November.
Cuellar represents Texas’ 28th Congressional District, which extends from the eastern and southern suburbs of San Antonio down to the southern border along the Rio Grande, extending southeast to the outskirts of McAllen.
The congressman’s roots in his native Laredo run deep. He was one of eight children born to migrant workers. His brother Martin is the elected sheriff of Webb County.